I’m in a pumpkin spice frame of mind, folks. Although the mild temperatures feel more like May than like October, a sweet-smelling candle will always put me in the mood for cooler weather. I have one in my hall closet, just waiting for a day like today.
A couple of weeks ago, I burned a small candle I won in a raffle basket. It had a delicious name, “Gingerbread Snickerdoodle,” and for days, while I went about the painstaking work of gutting bedrooms and closets in anticipation of refilling them with Christmas presents, the smell evoked snow and crackling fires and cookie baking and made the work of cleaning that much more tolerable.
If my grandmother could see me now, using candles to calm me while cleaning.
She would probably shake her head in disbelief. Throwing money at candles? Lighting them to set a mood? What’s wrong with flipping the light switch on and using the soothing scents of bleach and Mr. Clean to get you through the day? She’d probably think buying candles was silly and wasteful, a sure sign that young people need to toughen up.
For the generation before mine, candles were nothing more than a light source. Before flashlights my grandparents used them as a last resort if the electricity went out and the kerosene lamp had gone out, but never for decoration or ambiance. Come to think of it, candles outside religious and ceremonial settings were rare when I was a kid. Church and birthday cakes were the only places I remember seeing them. They just weren’t common items like they are now.
Of course times change, and marketing helps that passage along. Candles have evolved from a necessity to one of those luxury items we like to indulge in. Because… well, because we can. We like the coziness they bring to a room and the intimacy they imply. But most of all we’re enamored of the roughly one million different scents candlemakers now offer.
Though I like lighting candles, I am by no means obsessed with them, at least not in the way some of my friends are. One of them, an otherwise perfectly sane woman, has been known to stand in line when candles go on sale at the Bath & Body Works at the mall in Halifax. Another friend swears by this ritual: she comes home from work, makes a cup of tea, and lights a giant candle in her living room, where she sits for a quarter of an hour or so before getting on with the business of life. She claims it makes all the difference.
In this era of chaos and stress, it’s a relief that something as basic as a good scent appeals to us, and it seems we’re willing to pay top dollar for that. While you can fork over a mere couple of bucks for a votive candle, some larger jar can cost a small fortune, as much as a couple hundred dollars. And it gets worse: the 88-ounce Peony & Blush Suede Luxury Scented Candle made by Jo Malone London, for example, sells for $495 at Nordstrom. At that hefty price, you get free shipping and 230 hours of burn time (personally, any candle I pay $495 for better power my house for a few months, so I won’t be running out to buy one of these).
But that’s not even the most expensive candle. Luxe magazine gives that crown to a wax creation launched for the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wedding. It’s made of pricey essential oils, including Bulgarian rose oil and Indian jasmine oil (whatever those things are), and it promises the fragrant notes of peonies, Nile Delta’s Geranium and American Cedar-wood musk.
Me? I’m a Yankee Candle and Scentsy kind of girl who’s willing to cheat with whichever other brand has a buy-one-get-one deal offered. I draw comfort from knowing that when December rolls around, cinnamon scented everything will be in full bloom. I’ll whip out the two-wick Christmas Cookie pillar candle I’ve been saving since I bought it on clearance last year, and I’ll fire up the cranberry wax in my Scentsy warmer, and I’ll happily let the simple pleasure of comforting smells get me through the holidays.